A novel, room temperature-stored carbon-graphite cloth has been utilized to produce a variety of ankle-foot orthoses (AFO). It was discovered that the curing process of the composite could be altered, and the AFO could be partially cured under vacuum. After removal of the composite AFO from the mold, the material maintains its shape and allows the orthotist to hand-modify it further. Following this, the brace is returned to the oven for final curing. This advance in the fabrication process may allow for the manufacture and distribution of modular AFOs in the partially cured state without need of refrigeration. They could then be custom-shaped by hand to fit the patient. This material is post-formable by heat with no delamination.
Mechanical testing of the carbon cloth is in progress along with evaluation of the brace by able-bodied subjects. Failure mode investigation is also underway and attention is now directed to safety issues. Results of some of these findings are presented.